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Scotland books….which ones do you recommend?

There are lots of wonderful books about Scotland or written by Scottish authors. Here's are some ideas, perhaps others have more suggestions.

  • Iain Banks Raw Spirit: The Search for the Perfect Dram--this book written by the late Iain Banks is wonderful. He was commissioned by an editor to go forth and try all the different whiskys in Scotland and then write about the experience. Iain surely talks about the whisky, but it's also about the places that he visits and the travel he takes to get there. Iain loved to drive and he'll tell you about some of the best roads in Scotland that people who like to drive need to experience.
  • Nigel Tranter: He writes historical fiction about Scotland. The books range from Viking Scotland to Mary Stewart. He has a bit of a strange style, but he brings Scotland's history alive.
  • Ian Rankin: Inspector Rebus is Rankin's detective who shows you the darker side of Edinburgh. I love these books. It's not only what you learn about contemporary Scotland, but they are good mysteries as well.
  • Quintan Jardine: I first found his Bob Skinner books and then the Oz books. Both are contemporary mysteries based in Scotland. He's very different from Rankin, but I enjoy Bob Skinner and hope that he can survive in the new Scottish Police force. :)
  • Lewis Grassic Gibbon Sunset Song: this novel was voted as Scotland's favorite novel one year. It explores Scottish identity in the 20th century.
  • Paul Johnston: He writes interesting books about a future Scotland.
  • Compton Mackenzie Whisky Galore: It was made into a movie, but the book is great. It takes place in west on Island during WWII and had to do with a lot of bottles of whisky.
  • Sir Walter Scott: Well, he's the man. Author of Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, Fair Maid of Perth and more. Visit his home in the Borders.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Need I say more?
  • George MacDonald Fraser, Steel Bonnets: This is wonderful book about the Borders, that area where Scotland and England meet. It non-fiction, but reads like a story.
  • James Hunter A Dance Called America: This is a wonderful book about the diaspora of Scotland. It focuses primarily on North America. If you think you know all about the Clearances, read this book to learn some more.
  • Neal Ascherson Stone Voices: This is a great book for those interesting in the recent independence movement in Scotland. Ascherson is a nationalist and journalist and he introduces you to many of the ideas that have grown and developed in the last 75 years.
  • George Mackay Brown: He's a poet and author and the voice of Orkney. It's a place you've likely not heard of, but you should.
  • Andrew Grieg The Return of John McNab: Grieg has written several books, but I think this one introduces to a flavor and a story that is classic Scotland.
  • Compton Mackenzie The Monarch of the Glen: There was a PBS (BBC Scotland) series based on this book. Both are wonderful How great is a dog named Useless?

What books can you add to this list?

Posted by
1308 posts

To add to Pam's excellent list:
* Diana Galbandon's popular Outlander series, historical fiction.
* Alexander McCall Smith has two charming series set in present day Edinburgh, the 44 Scotland Street series and the Isabel Dalhousie series.

* For cozy mystery lovers, M C Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series.

Posted by
275 posts

Another suggestion:

Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes was Scottish. But I cannot think of any books that he wrote which were set in Scotland.

Posted by
5677 posts

I just rediscovered P. F. Chisholm's Sir Robert Carey books. They are mostly on the English side of the border during the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign. As one reviewer said, I'm in love with Sargent Dodd. I adore his experience in London. See A Plague of Angels. He has the same reaction to London that many visitors to NYC have. :)

Posted by
809 posts

Pamela, thanks for this great post! I love historical fiction [in fact that's how I learn most of my history] and there are a number of authors here that I will have to track down. I am very fond of the novels of D.E. Stevenson - they are generally fairly light stories of young people falling in love, but she's a good writer and comes up with interesting plots. Her books are set in England or Scotland or both in the mid-20th century; some of the Scotland titles are The Blue Sapphire, The House of the Deer, Shoulder the Sky, and Music in the Hills. She also wrote I look forward to more suggestions from other posters.

Posted by
5677 posts

Ah, Dave, try Quentin Jardine if you want to escape the high brown. :) Paul Johnston too. He can get a bit weird. Of course, Iain Banks has many other novels beyond his non-fiction.

And if you want a good take, try Whisky Galore and then watch the movie.

I love, love MC Beaton's Hamish McBeth. I think I've caught a glimpse of his town in my trips to Scotland, but I am never quite sure. :)

More will no doubt come to mind.


Posted by
1311 posts

the middle window, by Elizabeth goudge circa 1920
(historical novel which includes time travel)